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QUEENS CIVIC CONGRESS, Inc.

Queens Civic Congress


P.O. Box 670706
Flushing, NY 11367
Ashook Ramsaran, Editor

APRIL 2017 VOLUME 20 ISSUE 5

QUEENS CIVIC CONGRESS


Message from the President, Kevin Forrestal

It is my pleasure to write my first Quarterly Presidents Letter reporting some of the activities of the Queens
Civic Congress. Let me first take this opportunity to thank Harbachan Singh for his dedicated service and
leadership during his two years as President. We are very pleased that he is continuing on the Board where
we will benefit from his counsel.
At the June 2016 meeting after I was nominated as President, I requested that two actions be taken to
advance, what I hoped to be, two of my high-priority agenda items. First, President Singh appointed Tyler
Cassell as Chairman of the Buildings Committee replacing the retired Joe Amoroso, who had served with
distinction for many years. We thank you, Joe, for your many years of service. The Board also approved
the creation of an Ad-hoc Committee on the Homeless Crisis and Phil Wong was appointed Chairman. Phil
and Tyler have worked tirelessly concerning issues concerning the homeless crisis and buildings. Phil has
written articles and is working on a program about the issue. Tyler has done extensive research, particularly
about illegal conversions. He made a preliminary presentation to the membership last October, and he has
refined and expanded that work into a comprehensive Power Point presentation which will be shared with
the membership in the near future. We will be using it, also, as part of our advocacy efforts to effect change
with NYC Department of Buildings issues. I thank both of them for their contributions.
In December, 2016, I testified before the New York City Councils Committee on Operations regarding
Introductions calling for changes in several matters as they relate to the Board of Standards and Appeals. In
general, the Intros called for more transparency and accountability. Our Board had expressed support for all
of these bills via email. My oral and written testimony expressed such support. The committee is in active
negotiations with the Mayors team and they anticipate resolution on most, or all, of the Intros by this
summer or sooner.
At the invitation of Governor Cuomos office, we attended his New York City Pre-State of the State address
and Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochuls subsequent address. At the Governors address, Governor Cuomo
announced his Excelsior Scholarship Plan which is included in his 2017 Budget Proposal. This initiative
calls for New York State to pay the tuition for any New York State resident who attends a public college
(SUNY or CUNY) on a full-time basis, who is in good academic standing and whose family income is
below incremental from $100,000 to $125,000 (2019) per year. The Governor stated that to succeed in our
times, a college degree is the equivalent to what a high school diploma was in the past. Therefore, the state
should extend public education through college. Subsequently, the Governors office solicited the support
of the Queens Civic Congress. Hersh Parekh, the Governors Queens Regional Representative, made a
presentation to the Board in February where he heard concerns and recommendations (see February minutes
for more details). The Board unanimously endorsed the general principle of the proposal, and it was
approved as part of the New York State 2017 Budget.
Continued on Page 4 ..
Queens Civic Congress, formed in 1997, is a registered New York State non-profit organization representing more than 100 civic and other
community organizations throughout the Borough of Queens in New York City, is committed to the protection and advancement of the
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Quality of Life, to provide a forum for the civic associations and neighborhood organizations, to develop and present common policies
and positions, and to furnish effective leadership and advocacy for the advancement of the welfare and interests of Queens' neighborhoods.
QUEENS CIVIC CONGRESS OFFICIALS
COMMITTEES & CHAIRS 2017

President Kevin J. Forrestal


Executive Vice President Richard Hellenbrecht
Executive Secretary Sey Schwartz
Treasurer Jim Trent
Vice Presidents Tyler Cassell, Henry Euler, Rene Hill,
Barbara Larkin, John McCaffrey,
Kim Ohanian, Ashook Ramsaran,
Warren Schreiber, Harbachan Singh, Phil Wong
Founder Robert (Bob) Harris
Aviation & Noise Richard Hellenbrecht & Warren Schreiber
Coops & Condos Robert Freidrich & Warren Schreiber
Education Kevin J. Forrestal (Acting)
Membership Committee Richard Hellenbrecht & Jim Trent
Audit Committee Tyler Cassell
Health & Human Services Kevin J. Forrestal
Legislation Sey Schwartz
Communications Ashook Ramsaran
Parks & Cultural Affairs Barbara Larkin & Kim Ohanian
Public Safety Kim Ohanian
Transportation Jim Trent
Hospitality Rene Hill
Planning, Land Use, Zoning
& Code Enforcement Tyler Cassell
Congress Platform John McCaffrey
Ad Hoc Committee
Homeless Issues Phil Wong
Youth NextGen Committee Ashook Ramsaran

Other Ad Hoc Committees may be established as required.


Members are requested to volunteer their services to the respective chairs & committees.

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UPCOMING EVENTS CALENDAR
Queens Civic Congress (QCC) Meetings:
April 18 Executive Meeting Union Plaza Nursing Home
May 16 Executive Meeting Union Plaza Nursing Home
June 20 General Meeting - Queens Farm Museum
September 19 Executive Meeting Venue To Be Determined
October 17 Annual Meeting, Queens Farm Museum
November 21 Executive Meeting Venue To Be Determined
December 2 Legislative Reception, Douglaston Club
Queens Civic Congress (QCC) Legislative Reception:
Sunday, December 2, 2017 at 1:00pm
Venue: Douglaston Club located at 600 West Drive, Douglaston, NY 11363
In Memory
Julie Schreiber-Ramirez, daughter of QCC vice president Warren Schreiber
Ajit Singh, brother of QCC vice president and former president Harbachan Singh
Joanne Gennaro, wife of former NYC Council Member Jim Gennaro
Wilma Jaffe, wife of Jim Jaffe of Kew Gardens Hills Civic Association
Helen Marshall, former Queens Borough President
Kung-Shieh Woo, mother of Dorothy Woo of Holly Civic Association
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A National Civics Exam by Richard M. Perloff, PhD
The health of American democracy is imperiled. A recent Economist study downgraded the United
States to a flawed democracy because of declining trust in government. Political knowledge, a bulwark
of democracy, as James Madison argued, is lower here than in other Western democracies.
As Justice Stephen Breyer reports in his book Making Our Democracy Work, only a third of the
public can name all three branches of government, although two-thirds could easily remember a TV
judge on American Idol. More than four in 10 do not know that free speech is protected for all
media. If people do not understand the importance of a free press, they will readily agree with a White
House that calls the media the opposition party.
To remedy these problems, we need to revitalize civics education. The government should require that
high school students pass a pluralistically designed national civics exam.
Given that so many young people receive only online information that reinforces their own views,
students should also be given practice advocating political viewpoints other than their own, a
requirement for a robust democracy.
Dr. Richard M. Perloff is Professor of Communication, Psychology, and Political Science at Cleveland State
University and the author of The Dynamics of Political Communication.
Reprinted with permission of the author, published as Letter to the Editor, NY Times April 4, 2017
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Copyright Queens Civic Congress, Inc (QCC). All rights reserved. Not for sale. No part of this publication may be
reproduced, utilized or transmitted in any form or by any means without the prior permission of QCC.
QCC makes no representation or warranty, expressed or implied, as to the accuracy or completeness of any of the
information contained herein, including any opinion or other communication. While every effort has been made for
accuracy, QCC shall not be responsible for any inaccuracies, omissions or typographical errors in this publication.
Will Legalizing Basement Apartments Work? By Tyler Cassell, Vice President, QCC
New York City Mayor Bill DiBlasio has floated the idea of legalizing basement apartments in order to meet
his optimistic goal of creating 200,000 affordable housing units in the New York City. The group BASE
(Basement Apartments Safe for Everyone) and some other groups are urging the mayor to soften the zoning
and building codes to achieve this end. Some even want the city to provide financial incentives to convert.
But, the question is: Will this tactic work? Legalizing basement apartments is not such an easy task. Many
1 and 2 family homes actually have cellars, and not basements. A basement has at least 51% of its height
above ground level, while a cellar has at least 51% below grade. Its not clear whether both basements and
cellars are in play in the mayors thinking. Cellar apartments are not permitted currently by law.
However, legalizing sub-level apartments is not such an easy task. A second door would have to be
punched out in the foundation, with drainage so it didnt fill up with water. Other changes would have to
be made such as: the installation of a stove and vent; a toilet and at least a shower stall; some sort of
heating system; space heaters would not be allowed due to fire concerns; furniture, if rented as furnished;
and more. Remodeling to code would cost from $10-30 thousand dollars, or more. It would take at least 2-
4 years just to break even on the remodeling costs! In addition, the home assessment value would increase,
and property taxes would increase, whether occupied or not. Apartment income would have to be declared
on all tax forms. And, you would be stuck with the conversion forever.
Most single family homeowners dont want to be landlords. They dont want to interview and screen
tenants, provide a lease, nor do they want the possibility of winding up in housing court for any tenant
disputes. Plus, many homeowners use their sub-level space for their own use, such as for a kids playroom,
a TV room, a hobby room, and a laundry and storage room. Those spaces would be lost to the homeowner.
They would have to put their own washers and dryers upstairs somewhere, if possible. Not to mention the
use of common space such as having yard privileges, or driveway usage.
Would legalizing basement apartments convince those who illegally rent their basements to comply? The
simple answer is NO; because they wouldnt want to spend the money necessary to comply with code, nor
would they want the additional tax burden. The will continue to stay hidden, collecting rent in cash
payments that arent declared as income. Few will make the transition to legalize.
The devil is always in the details. When examined, the push to legalize basement apartments will not meet
with a resounding success, if much success at all. The city would be better off just to bite the bullet and
build low-income housing under NYCHA like they did after WW II to house returning GIs.
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Message from the President, Kevin Forrestal (Contd from Page 1)
The QCC Board also endorsed two Introductions: Intro. 393 which would allow the Department of
Buildings to issue violations regarding illegal conversions based on readily observable circumstantial
evidence and Introduction 1218 which would impose stiff penalties on individuals who illegally convert
properties and would increase the Department of Buildings ability to gain access for inspections.
Brent Weitzberg, Chief of Staff for State Senator Andrew Hevesi, addressed the Board in March asking for
support of the Home Stability Support (HSS) program. Home Stability Support (HSS) is a strategic
proposal to address New York's growing homeless crisis. , HSS would create a new statewide rental
supplement for public assistance-eligible families and individuals facing eviction, homelessness, or loss of
housing due to domestic violence or hazardous living conditions. The Board voted to support this bill by a
vote of ten in favor and one against.
We hope to have a presentation about the closure of Rikers Island at our April meeting at the Union Plaza
Nursing Home and look forward to seeing you there.
Respectfully, Kevin J. Forrestal, President
Proposed Solutions to the Homeless Crisis in New York:
Their Funding Sources and Uncertainties
By Phil Wong, Vice President, Queens Civic Congress

On Feb 28, 2017, Mayor de Blasio unveiled a plan to open roughly 90 new homeless shelters
throughout New Yorks five boroughs. This move would increase the number of shelters in New York
City by nearly a third. The new shelters which would be in addition to the roughly 275 currently
overseen by the Department of Homeless Services would enable the city to move thousands of
people from the hotels and so-called cluster sites to more stable shelters, and eventually into permanent
housing.

In the same press conference the Mayor also declared that that the best New York City could do to
reduce the ranks of homeless people in its shelters was to move 2,500 out over five years. At this rate it
would take 120 years to move the entire 60,000 homeless population out of shelter system. Convinced
that this goal to be too low, a plan working its way through the State Legislature is gaining support
from advocates and various elected officials.

Proposed by NYS Assemblyman Hevesi, the Home Stability Support (HSS) Program would offer
statewide rental assistance that would replace an entire group of outdated state and local rent subsidies
with a single state program. Families and individuals facing eviction, homelessness or loss of housing
due to domestic violence or other dangers would greatly benefit from this long overdue reform. Put it
simply this plan helps families receiving public assistance stay in their homes by bridging the gap
between the rent subsidies they now get from the state and typical fair-market rents.

An analysis by the office of NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer found that over 10 years the HSS plan
could cut the citys shelter population by 80 percent among families with children and 40 percent
among single adults. The analysis also showed that the plan would yield future savings for the city,
including about $316 million in the 10th year. According to the mayors most recent management
report, it costs about $44,000 a year to shelter a homeless family. The HSS plan costs at about $11,000
a year for a family of three, which is far more cost effective than placing them in single hotel rooms
and could lessen the need for the 90 new shelters the mayor proposed. The HSS plan would cost $450
million a year in federal and state funds, and IDC Senator Jeff Klein is throwing his support to get this
into their budget resolution.

Funding of homeless programs at the city level is another picture. In the 2016-2017 DHS budget, out
of the annual budget of $1.295 billion a total of $409 million are Federal funds (31.6%), $747 million
are city funds (57.7%), and the state contributes $135 million (10.4%) -- with over 70% of this money
funding the existing shelter system. During the Mayors Feb. 28th announcement, there were no
indications of funding sources to these 90 new shelters. Every agency budget staff anticipates Federal
funds to get slashed in the upcoming fiscal year. It is therefore difficult to determine how exactly the
existing shelter system would get fully funded, and its even more uncertain how the 90 new shelters
would be paid.

When both de Blasio and Hevesis plans are combined, these plans offer a realistic, concrete solution
to slow the homeless population from growing. However there are considerable uncertainties funding
for the new shelters are not concrete while existing Federal funds are disappearing, with even more
cuts on the horizon as New York City stands firm on being a sanctuary city.
A Tribute to Helen M. Marshall (1929 2017), Queens Borough President, 2002-2013
By Richard C. Hellenbrecht, Executive Vice President, Queens Civic Congress

On behalf of the members and executive officers of the Queens Civic Congress,
I would like to express our sorrow at the loss of a great community leader and
elected official in our Borough. We join in the celebration of the life of the
courageous and energetic former Borough President, Helen M. Marshall.
On March 19 QCC President Kevin Forrestal and I were among the thousands of
admirers who attended a celebration of the life and legacy of the retired borough
president at the Helen Marshall Cultural Center behind Queens Borough Hall. There
was standing room only at this three-hour ceremony with members of her family,
honorable current and retired elected officials, her son, daughter and two grandsons
and numerous friends and admirers. Speakers included many elected officials and community members
who are now beneficiaries of the many organizations, projects and programs that Helen was instrumental in
forming or continuing.
Ms. Marshall passed away at the age of 87 on March 4, 2017 while with family in California. Helen was a
native of the Bronx, spent some time in Harlem before settling in East Elmhurst, Queens. She received her
B.S. in Education from Queens College in Education and served as a teacher for eight years. In 1969 Helen
became the first Director of the Langston Hughes Library in Queens, which she was instrumental in
organizing. Libraries were critically important to Helen and she budgeted more money for libraries in her
three terms as borough president than the other four boroughs combined. Education was also among
Helens priorities. One of Helens lasting legacies is Elmcor, the East Elmhurst/Corona senior and youth
services program, started in 1965 and now one of the largest community programs in Queens. On top of it
all Helen was a devoted wife to Donald Marshall, mother and grandmother. Several speakers mentioned
Helen was a tremendous cook: chicken wings were especially noted.
With all of her community knowledge and experience in these programs, Helen was elected to the New
York State Assembly in 1983, serving until her election to the New York City Council in 1991. In 2001,
Helen ran for the position of Queens Borough President following the term-limited Claire Shulman. Helen
was successful and became the first Black elected borough president of Queens and only the second woman
in that position. Reelected two more times, Helen was well respected and beloved in this positon. One of
her favorite accomplishments was forming the Queens General Assembly, a group celebrating and
fostering the broad diversity of Queens, which remains active today under current Borough President
Melinda Katz. Helen also had a dream to have a large atrium behind Queens Borough Hall that could be
used to celebrate the culture of Queens. That venue, dedicated in September 2016 as the Helen M.
Marshall Cultural Center, was the location of this ceremony.
Borough President Melinda Katz was the sponsor and keynote of the event. Some of the speakers who
recalled the numerous successes, legacies and memories of Borough President Marshall included former
Mayor David Dinkins, Former Congress members Charles Rangel and Gary Ackerman, Congressman
Gregory Meeks, State Senator Leroy Comrie, City Council members Karen Koslowitz and Barry
Grodenchik and emcees Assemblyman Jeffrion Aubry and Andrew Jackson, Executive Director of
Langston Hughes Library. Highlights from Helens borough hall staff were delivered emotionally by long-
term aide Shurn Anderson.
I have many wonderful recollections of B.P. Marshall from my time as Chair of Queens Community Board
13. Helen always greeted each chair personally by name at Borough Board meetings. She almost always
supported the determinations of the boards. I recall a visit with Helen to a family homeless residence near
JFK. Helen toured and met with many individuals, asked questions with empathy and used her position to
get improvements in facilities and operations at the facility.
QCC Annual Legislative Reception

NYC Memeber Grodenchik, US Congr Meng, NYC Comptroller Stringer NYC Public Adv Leticia James, NYS AM Weprin, NYS Sen Avella

NYS Gov Rep Hersh Parekh presents commendation to Harbachan Singh Queens Borough Pres. Melina Katz swearing in new QCC team

Queens Borough Pres. M. Katz swearing in QCC pres Kevin Forrestal NYC Comptroller Stringer presenting proclamation to QCC

NYC Public Advocate Leticia James addressing QCC The C.O.M.E.T team. QCC VP Phil Wong far right
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Addisleigh Park Civic Organization Forest Hills Crescents Civic Association Newtown Civic Association
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Bayside Clear Spring Council Friends of Fort Totten Parks North East Flushing Civic Association
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Bay Terrace Community Alliance, Inc. Greater Whitestone Taxpayers Civic Assn., Inc. Oakland Gardens/Terrace Community Council
Bay Terrace Cooperative Section #1 Harding Heights Civic Association Off Broadway Homeowners Association
Belle Harbor Property Owners Association Hillcrest Estates Civic Association Old Forest Hills, Association of
Bellerose Commonwealth Civic Association Hilltop Village Co-Op #4 Our Neighborhood Improvement Association.
Bellerose-Hillside Civic Association Hollis 11423 Block Association Parkway Village Historical Society
Bowne Park Civic Association Hollis Hills Civic Association Queens Colony Civic Association
Briarwood Community Association Holliswood Civic Association Queens Community Civic Corporation
Broadway-Flushing Homeowners Hollis Park Gardens Civic Association Queens Preservation Council
Cambria Heights Civic Association Holly Civic Association Queens Village Civic Association.
Central Queens Historical Association Hyde Park Owners Corp. Queensboro Hill Flushing Civic Association
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Coalition for Queens Jamaica Estates Association. Richmond Hill Historical Society
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Douglaston Civic Association Little Neck Bay Civic Association United Veterans Mutual Housing - see Bell
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As the city and state cut back on services in your Queens Civic Congress
neighborhoods and raise taxes and fees, your civic Attn: Jim Trent, Treasurer
organizations need QCC more than ever to speak 242-33 90 Avenue
out for Queenss fair share of public services and to Bellerose, NY 11426
limit tax increases on Queens residents.